Guangzhou,  Living in China

Renting an apartment in Guangzhou and how I found my dream home

Look! I can actually see the Pearl River from my window.


Finding an apartment to live in isn’t easy, and it can be  far from easy when you are renting in a country that is still new to you. It was quite easy to find my first home in China, but because the room was in the middle of a small village it didn’t make Chinese police happy and I had to move out after half a year.

In May I was spending my holiday in Finland but also at the same time dreaming about my Chine home number two. I had already decided to find a home near Sun Yat Sen University in the Haizhu district, because I am starting my Bachelor degree there in September. There are different kind of areas near the university, from shabby villages to top end apartment hotels with shining decorations.

As a student my budget isn’t unlimited and I decided that the monthly rent should absolutely be under 3000RMB. I wanted a place I could happily live in, but also a place that I could afford without calling my mom. After coming back to Guangzhou me and my boyfriend immediately started to look for an apartment for us.

I noticed that even there are lots of Chinese websites for renting apartments they seem to be full of false adds. Property agents post an add to a website that has beautiful pictures and affordable price. Then when you call to ask about the apartment they say “it’s been just rented, but luckily we have some other good options for you”. This means they have something worse, or something more expensive.

The best way to find an apartment in Guangzhou is to first find the area you want to live in.In my opinion the location is the top priority and I want to live near to my university in order not to spend too much time on metro or bus every morning and evening. From my current home it takes only five minutes to walk to the north gate of Sun Yat Sen University.

In every district there are numerous property agents that both sell and rent apartments. Usually if you find something interesting you can see the place right away or atleast the next day. Remember to tell the agents very clearly what you want. There’s no point in wasting time in seeing homes you would never rent. Figure out what is your budget and what you want from your apartment.

It is also important to ask the agent how much money you have to pay them if you make a deal through them. Also ask the owner what kind of other monthly or yearly fees will be added on top of the rent. If you have limits in your wallet you want to be sure what you are actually paying each month. If you are happy to be on the rich side, then just pick any fancy place you like.

When I said that we started looking immediately after my return to China it means that I arrived to Guangzhou on Friday evening on 10th of June and the next morning we headed out to find our home. During the weekend we saw some terrible places with way too much dirt. We also saw some amazing rooms with way too high rents. We went to five or six property agent offices to ask for suitable apartments and who continued calling us for few days until they believed we already found a place.

Finally on Sunday we saw a place that looked nice. Big window in the living room and lovely bay window in the bedroom. From the first sight I though that this place is for us! But I was little bit worried about the monthly rent of 2800 RMB because it was on the high end of our budget.

But after seeing that place we couldn’t find anything better and I couldn’t stop thinking about that apartment. Therefore on Monday the 13th we signed the contract and rented it! We also managed to bargain a bit and got the rent down to 2700RMB which is about 290 euros.

Renting an apartment this fast could never happen in Finland. First of all nothing happens on Sundays and second people usually have to wait a month or so for the previous tenant to move away. In Finland it also wouldn’t be possible to rent a place like this for that price. Usually apartments with living room and one bedroom costs around 500 to 600 euros in my old university city, Tampere.

Now after a week of living and decorating in my new home I still love it! It maybe doesn’t have enough storage space (like non), but it has a real kitchen (for my boyfriend to cook) and a western toilet. Me and my boyfriend already had some heated discussions about how our home should look like and basically disagree in everything. But still we have managed to make this place look and feel like home.

So if you are renting an apartment in China, just keep in mind these few tips:

– If you don’t speak and read fluent Chinese, have a Chinese friend to help and translate
– Forget the Chinese renting websites and head to the streets
– First find the location you want to live in and then find the property agents
– Find out the prices in the area for seeing a few apartments from different agents
– Make sure what you are actually paying every month
– After moving remember to register at the local police station


    • C

      How do you manage paying bills when you don’t have a job? Unless you have super rich parents who are willing to fund your education and living expenses, the whole way./..

      Sara Reply:

      C, I don’t have super rich parents. In Finland every student gets student money from the government every month when they are studying (not on summer holiday). You get this student money for free (it’s paid from tax moneys) and even if you study abroad. It doesn’t last forever and for example I have two years left to use it. This student money is 460 euros per month, that’s about 4200RMB. Then if this money isn’t enough we can get student loan as well and that we have to pay back after we graduate and find a job. Paying back the student loan is quite flexible and students who doesn’t have rich parents and no job, usually have to take some loan.

      C Reply:

      I supposed that’s more than enough to spend if living in china alone (not having a job aside)

      Laura Reply:

      Hi C, Is true that in Finland they have student money every month and some other countries also have it. When I moved to Finland I got about…450Euro / month help. Some students who come to China have a scholarship which covers tuition fees, and sometimes even accomodation. Or the other alternative is to use the money you saved in the past with your part time jobs, that money helps a lot.

    • Tom

      I’ve never had to house hunt in China, and after your experience, I’m glad I haven’t. I tend to get frustrated fairly easily when people waste my time with false advertisements.
      Do you get a scholarship? If so I’d like to hear about how you got that opportunity.

      Sara Reply:

      I wanted to apply for a scholarship, but then found out that Sun Yat Sen University doesn’t accept scholarship students to bachelor degrees. My friend applied for the Chinese government scholarship and wants to start studying this September. But he still haven’t got any answer from the CSC, Chinese Scholarship Counsil. They are really letting them wait until the last minute.

    • ordinary malaysian

      Lucky for you to have found an apartment near your university with a nice view of the Pearl River. Some pictures of the apartment and its environs would be fine. Enjoy your new place.

      Sara Reply:

      Thank you ordinary malaysian, I really enjoy this place and it’s already a home to me.

    • Simo

      Did you have to pay a deposit? and how long is the lease?

      I hate apartment hunting in China myself, because often the landlords require too long leases (in my case usually 12 months, the very least 6 months) and paying like 3 months of rent upfront + deposit. and if you can’t do this they demand higher rents. it’s like this here in the north, it’s definitely the owners market here in BJ/TJ =/

      seems like the GZ market is still competitive and favors the renters.

      Sara Reply:

      Hi Simo! Yes, I had to pay a deposit of two months rent and the lease is for one year. I’ve heard too that it’s hard to get a shorter lease, atleast for a good price. We managed to bargain 100RMB off the rent, but that was just about what we could ask. We didn’t even ask a shorter lease because we want to live in this area for atleast two (or three) years because I’m studying in the university nearby.

    • Sam

      Well, I am going to start to look for an apartment soon, since i need to move out of my current flat before 1st of August.. I personally hate to search for apartment.. so tired and exhausted.. and The worst, i have to deal with landlord/ agent…. TAI MA FAN …

      Sara Reply:

      It really is exhausting/麻烦 to find an apartment. That’s one reason why I don’t like moving too often. Hope you can find your place without too much hassle!

    • Louis

      Hey I loved your blog, very informative! I am also a new student going to zhongshan univ. this year. could you let me know the name of the apartment complex where you are renting? It seems like a wonderful option. Thank you!!!!!

      Sara Reply:

      Hi Louis! I live in 珠光高派 (zhu guang gao pai) and it’s nice and safe apartment building to live in.

    • chuck

      What luck would one have to rent for just 2 months? Really don’t want to stay in a cheap hotel for weeks. Thanks

      Sara Reply:

      Usually they only rent for one year, even when you rent an apartment for 6 months the rent could be higher. There could be some places specialized for short term renting, but unfortunately I don’t have any experience about them.

    • tam

      Hi,i am i have an apartment for rent in the west zone of the Sun Yat-Sen University.
      108sq.m. 3bedrooms 2toliets 15th floor
      face the Pearl River
      everybody want to rent it

      Sara Reply:

      Tam, you should tell us the rent, that’s an important factor. And if you rent the apartment through my blog, can I have a small comission? ;)

    • Josie

      Sara, I am glad to read your article. I am Chinese and I own a deplex ( 4 bedrooms) near Sun Yet-sen University. I wonder whether you have any friends who want to rent it? If they are interested, please contact me via my email address: Thanks!

    • Kieran Mullen

      Is it possible to get furnished apartment?  The Canton fair rates at hotel go way up. Instead of 200 RMB  it goes up to 400 RMB a night and if you stay for 15 days then it goes to 6000 RMB  This is crazy… I have chinese friends so maybe they help me?

      Sara Jaaksola Reply:

      It’s good to have a Chinese friend to help you with apartment hunting. There are many furnished apartments here that rent short time, but like you said, usually the prices are higher during the Canton fair. I’ve never rented those, so I’m not sure about the prices.

    • Jumaina Yunani

      Dear Sara – Thanks for sharing your experience about getting a renting apartment in Guangzhou.

      Can I have the full address of the agent that manage to get you an apartment close to Sun Yat-Sen University?

      My son is planning to pursue his MBBS there and would be grateful if you could provide some reliable propery agents there.

      Many thanks,

      Sara Jaaksola Reply:

      Dear Jumaina,

      I think there wasn’t anything special with out agent, we just chose him because he happened to have an apartment we wanted. We went to look for places with many different agents from different companies.

      Are near the north gate is very good if your son wants to study at the Haizhu campus of Sun Yat-Sen University.

      Agent takes a half month’s rent as a price for helping to find an apartment, you pay when you make the contract.

      There are many agencies over here and all of them seem to be pretty much the same as reliability goes.

    • Ron

      Hi Sara! Thank you very much for the detailed information about apartment renting. I am attending the Sun Yat-sen University in February and need to look for an apartment as well. Do you have any tips for apartment hunting in the same district as the university? My monthly budget will also be something like 2800 Yuan. I don’t have a Chinese friend, but will be doing a buddy program, though. Thanks in advance!

      Sara Jaaksola Reply:

      Hi Ron,

      With 2800 you should be able to find a nice apartment that fits for one person. There are many good options near the north gate of the university, not so much near the south gate.

      Also check Guangzhou Stuff classifieds section!

    • Héloïse

      Hi Sara! I’ve been through your blog, these last days, as I’m coming to SYSU for this next semester (from September till December/January). I’m looking for a place to stay near the uni but I don’t know anything (and your blog is so useful!!), so I was wondering, have you ever think about living in some locals or expat’s places when you arrived for the very first time there? Do you know how it could work?
      Best regards and wishes for your pregnancy,

      Sara Jaaksola Reply:

      Hi Heloise!

      It’s quite easy to find a flat sharing opportunity around the university, especially with other foreigners. There are lot of ads on this on the teaching building’s notice board.

      Steven Zheng Reply:

      It wont be a pain if you find the right agent who is speaking English,always helping foreigners to find the right apt in GZ. I have been working in gz as realtor for 7years ,So pls try me if you are looking for the apt ,pls add my Wechat : steven2115 or send me an email:

    • Steven Zheng

      It wont be a pain if you find the right agent who is speaking English,always helping foreigners to find the right apt in GZ. I have been working in gz as realtor for 7years ,So pls try me if you are looking for the apt ,pls contact me via Wechat : steven2115 or send me an email:

    • Allisa

      Hi Sara, I am moving to Guangzhou for a postdoc at SYSU where you went to school. I am looking for a place close to the University to rent. I am terrified of coming over to China with my cat and clothes without a secure place to live already in place, but you make it sound like this is not realistic and I should just come spend a week in a hotel and find a place. Is this accurate? I just want to figure things out as my Chinese colleagues seemed confused by my questions or flat out say they have no idea how to help me. I hope you can however point me in a good direction